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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 13, 2017 (AM)

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Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: I have a question relating to the missile launch by North Korea. North Korea announced that it implemented a successful test launch of a new type of ballistic missile that has been developed from a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). How does the Government of Japan analyze this launch?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government constantly monitors and engages in surveillance of North Korea with a sense of great concern. The announcement of the launch was made right in the midst of the Japan-U.S. summit meeting. In the summit meeting the two leaders shared concerns about the increasing severity of the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, including North Korean nuclear and missile issues, which have reached a new stage of threat. This led to the announcement by President Trump in the joint press conference that the United States stands behind Japan 100 percent.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Is the Government still engaged in analysis with regard to the type of missile that was launched yesterday?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is strongly demanding North Korea to refrain from provocative actions, but with regard to the type of ballistic missile and the system for its delivery, the Government is engaged in comprehensive analysis based on various information sources and I would like to refrain from making any detailed comments at the current time.

REPORTER: Following this latest launch, does the Government have any plans to call on China, which is considered to have a degree of influence on North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government considers that China has an extremely important role to play in dealing with North Korean issues, given that China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the chair of the Six-Party Talks process, and also North Korea’s largest trading partner, accounting for 90 percent of all North Korean trade. At various levels to date, the Government has requested China to make a constructive response to this issue as a responsible permanent member of the UNSC and we will continue to make such requests going forward. At the same time, we will continue to call on North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and to strictly implement and comply with relevant UNSC resolutions, including Resolution 2321.

REPORTER: I have a related question. You have already mentioned that the missile launch took place either in the middle or directly after the Japan-U.S. summit meeting. What is the expectation of the Government of Japan as to the role that the United States will fulfil from now with regard to North Korean nuclear and missile issues?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, what is of primary importance is that Japan and the United States cooperate closely through the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which plays an extremely significant role in deterrence.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Following the missile launch, the Prime Minister and President Trump stood together to issue a joint statement. What is the significance of this for the Government of Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that this joint statement has demonstrated both within Japan and around the world just how strong the Japan-U.S. Alliance is.


REPORTER: You have just mentioned that the latest launch is in contravention of UNSC resolutions and following the launch the Government has indicated that it  requested that an emergency meeting of the UNSC be convened. What is the aim in requesting this meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Following the launch, Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) requested Ukraine, which currently holds the presidency of the UNSC, to convene an emergency meeting and arrangements are currently underway to hold this meeting tomorrow morning, Japan time. I believe that the UNSC will firmly demand that North Korea implements UNSC resolutions that have been adopted to date and will also debate issues relating to sanctions following the latest missile launch.


REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic, about the Japan-U.S. summit meeting that took place this weekend. At the meeting, the two leaders affirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, including that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the Senkaku Islands, and also confirmed that bilateral economic relations would be strengthened. What is the Government’s analysis of the outcomes of the summit meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, Prime Minister Abe visited the United States from February 9 to 13. On February 10, the Prime Minister held the first Japan-U.S. summit meeting with President Trump, holding talks for approximately one hour and 40 minutes, including a working lunch. Following the summit meeting and at the invitation of President Trump, Prime Minister Abe traveled together with the President to the President’s Florida estate, where he spent an extended period of two nights and three days. In the summit meeting, the two leaders agreed to further strengthen the bonds of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, confirmed that both Japan and the United States will strengthen their bilateral trade and economic relations, and affirmed that Japan and the United States will play a leading role in ensuring peace and prosperity of the Asia Pacific region and the world. I believe that through the exchanges that took place in Florida, the two leaders were able to strengthen their relationship of trust. Furthermore, in response to the provocative action of a ballistic missile test launch by North Korea, which took place during the Prime Minister’s stay in Florida, the two leaders held a joint press conference, clearly demonstrating to the people of Japan and the United States and the wider world the strong unity between Japan and the United States. Following the summit meeting a joint statement was issued, which is the first bilateral document issued at the leader level by the new administration of President Trump. We consider this to be an expression of the importance that is placed on Japan, and in it the two leaders confirm their strong determination to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and economic relationship. I believe that this summit meeting was extremely significant for further developing the Japan-U.S. relationship. Based on a relationship of trust with President Trump, the Government of Japan seeks to further strengthen the unwavering bond between Japan and the United States.

REPORTER: I have a related question. I believe that during the meeting it was confirmed that arrangements will be made for President Trump to visit Japan during the course of this year. At the current point what is the Government’s thinking with regard to the timing of this visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Although nothing has been decided as yet, the Government would like to welcome President Trump as soon as possible. We will be engaged in coordination with the United States on this matter going forward.


REPORTER: With regard to the forum for dialogue led by Deputy Prime Minister Aso and Vice President Pence, which was agreed in the summit meeting, could you tell us what matters the Government of Japan will be seeking to discuss and also about when this dialogue will begin?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in the recent summit meeting the two leaders agreed to engage in talks on further advancing economic relations to an even higher level and taking the lead in promoting strong economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. For this purpose, it was decided to establish an economic dialogue led by Deputy Prime Minister Aso and Vice President Pence. Both governments will give consideration on how to take this dialogue forward. At the same time, the Government of Japan issued a request for an early visit by Vice President Pence to Japan. Also, in the working lunch that was held between the two leaders on February 10, it was confirmed that this economic dialogue would be created to focus on comprehensive discussions based on the three pillars of macroeconomic policies, including fiscal and financial policy; cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, energy, cyberspace and space; and rules for trade and investment. I expect that discussions will therefore focus on these three themes.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. This morning the Cabinet Office issued preliminary estimates of GDP for the October-December 2016 quarter. In this quarter, real GDP increased over the previous quarter by 0.2%, resulting in an increase in GDP at an annualized rate of 1.0%. This is the fourth consecutive quarterly increase in GDP, but has been led by external demand with private consumption remaining weak. Can I ask for your views on these results?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, according to the preliminary estimates of GDP (Preliminary Quarterly Estimates of National Expenditure) for the October-December 2016 quarter that were released today, real GDP grew at a rate of 1.0% on an annualized basis. In terms of the factors behind this result, although personal consumption remained flat due in part to price increases in fresh foods, capital investment increased for the first time in two quarters. Also, the increase in exports, including automobiles and electronic components, which was led by a gentle overall recovery in the overseas economic situation, can be cited as being factors in the increase in external demand. Since the inauguration of the second Abe administration, nominal GDP has increased by 47 trillion yen, reaching its highest-ever level. Looking at GDP overall, in both real and nominal terms it is the case that GDP has grown for four consecutive quarters. There is no change in the Government’s recognition that against a backdrop of ongoing improvements in the employment and income environments, the fundamentals for modest economic recovery remain in place. With regard to the future outlook, the Government expects that the economy will continue to recover modestly, against a backdrop of continuing improvements in the employment and income environments, and as the effects of various policies, economic and otherwise, take effect and help to realize future-oriented investment. The Government will continue to steadily implement economic policies, and through the realization of a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged and the promotion of science and technology innovation, we aim to increase the potential growth rate.


REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. The UNSC has issued a press statement about the situation in South Sudan, in which serious concerns are expressed about the security situation in the country and that there is a possibility that war crimes are being committed. What is the Government of Japan’s recognition with regard to the current security situation in South Sudan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, a press statement was issued by the UNSC on February 10, following a process of drafting and coordination by UNSC members. The press statement is based on reports of fighting in certain regions of South Sudan and in it the UNSC strongly condemns this fighting and calls on all parties to cease hostilities immediately. The statement also expresses the intention of the United Nations to cooperate closely with other regional organizations. As a current member of the UNSC and also as a nation participating in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the Government will continue to engage in consultations in the UNSC with great concern.

REPORTER: Is it the Government’s recognition that the Five Principles for Participation in Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) have not been compromised?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That is exactly our recognition.

REPORTER: I believe that one of the prerequisites for the assignment of “kaketsuke-keigo” (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack) duties to Self-Defense Force (SDF) personnel is that SDF personnel are able to engage in meaningful activities. Is the Government’s recognition, therefore, that the current situation is not one that would prevent SDF personnel from engaging in meaningful activities?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government is aware of reports of armed clashes in certain regions of South Sudan and of killings of civilians. The Government’s recognition is that the security situation is extremely severe in South Sudan as a whole. However, the Government has also received reports that the current situation in the region around the capital, Juba, which is where SDF units are stationed, is relatively calm, although it is necessary to continue to monitor the situation with a sense of urgency. For example, facilities such as supermarkets, shops, hospitals, and schools within the Juba city limits are all broadly operating as normal and major airlines are continuing to provide normal service to the city. In order to promote peace and stability in South Sudan, the Government considers it to be of the utmost importance for national reconciliation to be achieved and the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan to be implemented. We have also received reports that the Government of South Sudan has announced the establishment of a national dialogue and has ordered the punishment of soldiers who engaged in human rights infringements. Japan will continue to work with the international community to advance measures aimed at achieving resolution of the conflict and promoting national reconciliation.


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